A hernia is an opening or weakness in the muscular structure of the wall of the abdomen. This defect causes a bulging of the abdominal wall. Symptoms of a hernia include pain or discomfort and a localized swelling somewhere on the surface of the abdomen or in the groin area.
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Symptoms of a hernia include pain or discomfort and a localized swelling somewhere on the surface of the abdomen or in the groin area.
There are many different types of hernias.
Serious complications from a hernia result from the trapping of tissues in the hernia (incarceration), which can result in the damage of death of the tissue.
Hernia repair and the treatment of hernia complications require surgery.
Lumps and swelling in the abdominal area should be examined by a doctor.
What is an abdominal hernia?
A hernia is a general term that refers to a protrusion of a body tissue through a wall of a cavity in which it is normally contained. For example, brain tissue can herniate as can discs in the spine. A common herniation in people is an abdominal herniation. The following article will discuss these hernias.
An abdominal hernia is an opening or weakness in the muscular structure of the wall of the abdomen. The peritoneum
(lining of the abdominal cavity) protrudes through the opening and this defect causes a bulging of the abdominal wall. This bulging is usually more noticeable when the abdominal muscles are tightened, thereby increasing the pressure in the abdomen. Any activities that increase intra-abdominal pressure can worsen a hernia; examples of such activities are lifting, coughing, or even straining to have a bowel movement. Imagine a barrel with a hole in its side and a balloon that is blown up inside the barrel. Part of the inflated balloon would bulge out through the hole. The balloon going through the hole is like the tissues of the abdomen bulging through a hernia.
When the lining protrudes it can contain intra-abdominal contents such as the intestines and omentum (the layer of fat that covers abdominal organs). Serious complications from a hernia can result from the trapping of tissues in the hernia -- a process called incarceration. Trapped or incarcerated tissues may have their blood supply cut off, leading to damage or death of the tissue. The treatment of an incarceration usually involves surgery.
About 10% of the population will have an abdominal hernia during their lifetime. The hernias may occur in infants, children, and adults -- both in males and females. However, the majority of abdominal hernias occur in males.
Reviewed by William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR on 2/17/2012